Kenneth Anderson chose the military right out of Marianna High School in 1950. After playing football, baseball and making the All State basketball team in his senior year for the Bulldogs of MHS, Anderson became a Florida Gator at the University of Florida in Gainesville as well as a member of ROTC, the Reserve Officers Training Corps. He joined the Army upon graduation from UF in August, 1954.
Kenneth would end up serving in the US Army for 28 years, the first two years in active duty—beginning as a 2nd Lieutenant—and the remainder in the Army Reserve, where he eventually became a Colonel. The Malone native was not only lucky enough to miss the Korean War (1950-53) by one year; he embarked on a grand tour of post-World War II Europe during his first Army assignment as the heavy weapons platoon leader of “D Company.”
Anderson was stationed at a former Nazi SS troop barracks in Munich, Germany in 1955. “It was five stories high with a basement,” he explained at the TIMES offices last Thursday, June 9. “It was large enough to house three battalions and a support group. It had a name--Warner Kasern.” Also during the 18-month tour of duty in Europe, Anderson got to spend time with his former roommate at the University of Florida—Marianna’s own Charlie Brown.
“Charles Brown was stationed in Dachau, Germany and met me at the train depot,” Anderson explained. “His unit occupied a portion of the former Dachau concentration camp where so many people were killed in gas chambers and then burned in the ovens. We will always have Europe in our memories. For our 18-month tours, we were stationed just nine miles apart. We had opportunities to go on leave together to England, France, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Holland and Belgium.”
When Anderson’s short active duty stint was complete, he was able to begin a career in criminal justice that eventually became closely related to his Army Reserve duties. After being hired as a state probation and parole officer and assigned to Pensacola, Kenneth married a Jackson County native, JoAnne Bevis, on Aug. 10, 1957. In 1959, he was transferred to the Marianna office where June Sims was senior officer. E.C. Welch was the circuit judge and Robert L. McCrary was still a county judge in those days. Anderson was able to serve with “Capt. Charles Brown” again, as Brown was Commander of a Reserve unit in Chattahoochee. They occasionally served together for summer camp at Fort Benning, Georgia.
Anderson was hired as a federal probation officer in 1962 for the US District Court in Tallahassee—and assigned to the 160th Military Police Battalion in the capital city. “Our mission was in the area of the rehabilitation of Army personnel convicted in the military court system,” Anderson explained. “My civilian job was closely related. In order to be a qualified military policeman, it was necessary to take courses and become a Military Police officer, leaving my infantry designation.
“I served as a correctional officer, the headquarters company commander and battalion commander,” Anderson said. “As Bn Commander, I was responsible for MP line companies in St. Petersburg, Tampa and Ocala. We had two weeks’ summer training at Fort Campbell, Ky., Camp Shelby in Mississippi and at Fort Riley, Kansas. In Fort Riley, Major Joe Cook was on the staff. After his discharge, Major Cook had a long career with the Florida Department of Corrections and ended up in Marianna.”
Anderson also trained at the “United States Disciplinary Barracks,” also known as Fort Leavenworth in Kansas. Also called the DB, the military correctional facility is located at Fort Leavenworth, an Army post in Kansas. It’s one of three major prisons built on the post property. The others are the federal penitentiary named Leavenworth, located four miles to the south of the military facility, and the military’s Midwest Joint Regional Correctional Facility, built in 2010. “The military prison at Fort Leavenworth is an old cavalry post,” Anderson says. “It has a long history dating back to the original opening in 1874. It’s located on the west bank of the Missouri River.”
It helped with his reserve status that Anderson was a federal employee. But there were still challenges. “Federal employees are granted two-week leave for Active Duty training,” he explained. “In order to attend active duty for Command, you are required to use personal leave time. Time management with work, family and military duty is sometimes difficult, but the retirement benefits including Tri-Care are very good.”
Anderson was promoted in both his military and federal government work. “After completing my time with the 160th MP Bn,” Anderson explained, “I was assigned to the 400th MP Group as Executive Officer. I was eligible for promotion to the grade of Colonel and at the same time, I was being considered as Chief US Probation Officer for the Northern District of Florida. I was most fortunate to receive both promotions.”
Col. Anderson retired from the military in 1982 with 28 years of commissioned service. When his old HQ Company, the 160th, was activated for Desert Storm in 1991, Kenneth attended his compatriots’ sendoff. On September 30, 1994, Anderson retired as Chief United States Probation Officer Northern District of Florida with a combined state and federal service of 37 years. His family returned to their home county of Jackson in December of 1994.
After a long battle with Parkinson’s, JoAnne died in July 2010 but Kenneth is able to enjoy their granddaughter Ellory, soon to be a senior at Marianna High School. She is the daughter of Kenneth and JoAnne’s daughter, Julie Anderson Fuqua. Julie’s husband is Jonathan Fuqua of Marianna and she serves as the Foundation Director for Chipola College.
Kenneth, now 83, attends the First United Methodist Church of Marianna and still very much enjoys “The Florida Gator Teams,” as he calls them. Charlie Brown will make sure he does.